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Somerset Historic Environment Record


Site Name: Motte and bailey castle, Down End
SCHEDULED MONUMENT: Motte with two baileys immediately east of Bristol Road, Down End [No:33714]
Civil Parish: Puriton
PRN 12211Earthwork and geophysical survey (1999), Downend castle, Puriton
PRN 30233Excavation (1908), Down End motte and bailey castle, Puriton
PRN 30688Excavation and watching brief (2011), Appletree Cottage, Downend, Puriton
Grid Ref: ST 3092 4135 (ST 34 SW)
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Image: Image of HER 11447 - Photo by Somerset County Council (10 July 1989)
  HER 11447 - Photo by Somerset County Council (10 July 1989)

Public access:

The public accessibility of this site is unknown but it should be visible from a public right of way. Please assume that the site is private property. [Information last updated on 16 December 2002]


In 'Bally Field' is a motte with baileys, once known as Chisley or Chidley Mount. The hill has been scarped and trenched to form baileys with natural obstacles completing their defences. There are early references to potsherds, including Samian, and Roman coins being found there. {1}

An excavation by Chater and Major in 1908 found Norman and later pottery and iron objects. The site of a building, possibly a modern cow-shed, on a platform halfway up the motte, was marked by tiles but no other signs. No evidence of Roman remains, or any form of building of stone or timber was found. The excavators had doubts as to the defensive nature of the earthworks. {5}

This is a motte with two baileys on its nortth side. The motte has been formed by scraping the west end of a natural ridge where it terminates on low level ground. Its east side, in private gardens, is poorly defined and several pits have been dug into the top. The single bank of the inner bailey, and the twin banks of the outer bailey, have been constructed on level ground, not by scarping the slope. These banks end abruptly on the west, with no indication that they ever continued along this side which was possibly an area of marsh. {6}

Mound 30m across the top and 3.6m high on the west side, but little more than ground level on the east. Depression in the top c5m diameter and 2m deep on the uphill side, filled with nettles and an elder tree is growing among the dead timber there. To the east is an old excavation in the mound abutting to Woodlands boundary. In the north side of the mound an old erosion scar up to 0.75m high and 10m is regrassing well. The south side of the mound is in different ownership and there is a garage shed set against the slope. Good turf cover apart from slight disturbances. {9}

Provision of dual carriageways for the A38 in 1966 did not affect the site. {10}

There are several documentary references to the site which refer to it as a castle. The earliest is 1505 which refers to a ditch between 'Pylecherd and Le Baly' [PRO SC2/175/31]. Papers at Alnwick Castle refer to '3a in a close called Castle Bailey' (1562) [MS X.II.12.10A] which name is retained in 1594/1613 and 1640 [MS X.II.12.10B] {12}

Scheduling affirmed with new national number on 7/6/2000 (was Somerset 359). {13}

Two of the earthwork banks in the field may be earlier than the castle and may form part of a D-shaped enclosure associated with Viking armies. 'Viking's Pill' is also shown on a map of 1677 which records the moving of the course of the river Parrett (PRN 17051). {16}

In 2010, an evaluation (PRN 28347) to the east of the motte and bailey site revealed an extensive depression that had been backfilled during the medieval period. It is possible that this feature could have formed part of an extensive linear cut, which could have been defensive and therefore may have formed part of the eastern defences of the castle. The date of infilling of this feature would be consistent with the decline in importance of the castle site and the establishment of the borough to the east (PRN 10703). {17}


1 Mention - Page, W. Victoria History of the County of Somerset.  Vol. 2 (1911), 518.
2 Historical reference - Skinner, J [Rev John] Journals and Diaries.  (1788-1832) Available at British Library Reference: 33716
3 Historical reference - Aubrey collection.  Available at Bodleian Library. Reference: Mss 15 folio 122
4 Mention - Page, W. Victoria History of the County of Somerset.  Vol. 1 (1906), 360.
5 Excavation report - Chater, AG and Major, AF. Excavations and Downend, near Bridgwater. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History  55 (1910), 162-174 Copy available in Somerset Studies at Somerset Heritage Centre
6 Detailed records - Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division record card. Record ID: ST 34 SW 6 (1964) Location: HER files
7 Museum accession number - TTNCM A.3104. Stored at Somerset County Museum at Somerset Heritage Centre
8 Aerial photographs - RAF CPE/UK/1924 4014-5. (January 1946) Location: Somerset Studies Library, Taunton
9 Site visit report - Algar, DJ [David]. English Heritage Field Monument Warden. (29/7/1983) Report location: HER files
10 Correspondence - Somerset County Council to Ministry of Public Building and Works. (14/11/1966) and other correspondence. Location: HER files
11 Aerial photographs - DAP WB25-30. (1994) Location: HER digital information, prints in archive at Somerset Heritage Centre.
12 Mention - Dunning, RW. Castle at Downend.  (14/09/1999) copy of unpublished notes. Location: HER files
13 Correspondence - English Heritage to Somerset County Council. (3/7/2000) Location: HER files
14 Detailed records - Prior, S,. An Earthwork Survey of a Motte and Bailey Castle at Downend, Puriton, Sedgemoor.  (1999) MA coursework. Location: HER files under PRN 12211.
15 Description - Anon. Chisley Mount. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History.  23 (1870), 35-36
16 Description - Prior, SJ. Strategy, symbolism and the downright unusual: The archaeology of three Somerset castles. In Costen, M (ed). People and Places: Essays in honour of Mick Aston.  (2007) at 76-89 [specifically 84-86].
17 Detailed records - Brigers, J. An Archaeological Evaluation on Land Adjacent to 'Apple Tree Cottage', Downend, Puriton, Somerset.  Unpublished James Brigers report No: DATC 10 (2010) Location: HER file 28347.
18 Description - Prior, S, Roberts, T and Twinn, P. In search of the Vikings in South-West England. In George, A, Hawley, D, Nash, G, Swann, J and Waite, L. Early Medieval Enquiries.  (2010) at 103-124. Copy in Local Studies collection at Somerset Heritage Centre.

Record created in November 1986

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